Tuesday, January 8, 2013
1. The Next Day
2. Dirty Boys
3. The Stars (Are Out Tonight)
4. Love Is Lost
5. Where Are We Now?
6. Valentine's Day
7. If You Can See Me
8. I'd Rather Be High
9. Boss of Me
10. Dancing Out in Space
11. How Does the Grass Grow?
12. (You Will) Set the World On Fire
13. You Feel So Lonely You Could Die
Sunday, January 6, 2013
We have finally reached the end of the line. The last twenty songs, the first chance for anyone who stumbles upon the blog to shrug and angrily dismiss the validity of the list based on something that's too absent or too present on it (I just wasn't in to that Fiona Apple album, I fear). Of course, this is a personal list, a subjective arrangement ultimately more for keeping track of where I was in 2012 than where we were. Still, many similar sounds have surfaced. There are repeated trends and patterns that make it easy to note that our decade is developing a definitive set of sounds with which to define itself whether we wind up liking them or not. These are the final 20, fire up the complaint engine:
82. Grimes / "Oblivion" One more Grimes track. If you've been counting, that makes four. "Oblivion" is the song most likely to be found at the tip-top of a 2012 critical wrap-up, for reasons I can't articulate. It's a sort of Emily Strange theme song, cute, chipper, and pitch black.
83. Niki and the Dove / "DJ Ease My Mind" A face-painted, electro-clashing, melodic stomper of a dance anthem that begs as much as it commands.
84. Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz / "Mercy" Say what you will about Kanye West ego, one thing is for certain: he's a brilliant, gracious collaborator who sets up and steps in to many a multi-artist opportunity with audible vigor. When it's team ego-mania, is it ego or aesthetic?
85. A$AP Rocky / "Goldie" A flow that bounces out a melody mirroring the head-nodding instrumentals.
86. Pandr Eyez / "Physical Education" Is it straight pop or something else? "Physical Education" feels like an En Vogue or Salt-n-Pepa track that has been dismantled and reassembled with Frankenstein parts by a minimalist mad scientist.
87. Bear in Heaven / "Sinful Nature" The other 'bear' band I tend to forget about! Technically, Bear in Heaven have always had a synth element, but somehow it swung darker than it does on the rather poppy "Sinful Nature," a track that sounds like New Wave B-side buried beneath a hazy cloud of ambient effect.
88. Beach House / "Wild" I haven't managed to see Beach House live, but I hear they're a very, very different band on stage than they are in their recordings. They'd have to be, I suppose, if they wanted to put on a rock show. Bloom is filled with songs for lazy, idle days, "Wild" prettier than the last.
89. Lana Del Rey / "National Anthem" Whine if you must, but I love the artifice of LDR and I'd argue that all its posturing actually makes this song a sort of anthem to a very particular, very current mode of superficiality. The lyrics are an absurd, faux-seductive commentary on excess while at once soaking in every lush, instagrammed and tumblr'd marker of consumption.
90. Jessie Ware / "Strangest Feeling" Can we talk about how my parents used to have every radio in the house tuned to the local 'smooth jazz' station when I was younger and how every evening the programming gave way to this bleep bloopy ambient 'new age' that definitely included the Art of Noise song "Strangest Feeling" is built upon ("Moments in Love")? Because I feel like that should explain some of where I'm coming from on this...
91. Charli XCX / "You're the One" This song is so adorably melodramatic. Charli XCX is the New Romantic pseudo-goth chick of the next wave pop princesses, and the lilt that punctuates "dark" in the chorus shakily touches the darkness of the void in the midst of cheap and easy pop.
92. Pet Shop Boys / "Leaving" I go through periods where I listen to "West End Girls" on a loop, I love it so, and while I wasn't a fan of the Elysium album, I came away with the blissfully understated, oddly soulful "Leaving."
93. Polica / "Lay Your Cards Out" Poliça uses autotune in a subtle, economical way that seems to almost repurpose the tired mechanism.
94. Miguel / "Adorn" I said I didn't think "Adorn" deserved the high high rankings its receiving on so many lists, yes, but I didn't say it didn't belong on those lists at all. The vocals are impressive: flying high over a restrained, safety net of a song oddly punctuated with animalistic little cries.
95. Frank Ocean / "Bad Religion" A beautifully melancholy song that emotes through stretches of organ, falsetto, and serious Prince vibes (this similarity should be discussed more).
96. Kanye West, Pusha T & Ghostface Killah / "New God Flow" Oh man, the braggadocio touches the damn sky on this one, doesn't it? I'll allow it.
97. Philip Glass & Beck / "NYC: 73-78" I can't tell you how much I love the repeated piano patterns of Philip Glass. Official sounds of science, here made glassy and dimensional in a new and different way.
98. Burial / "Loner" A grimy, dirty warning sign that feels like the drugged out after effects of a night spent poorly.
99. Frankie Rose / "Interstellar" Frankie Rose has been a member of Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls, and Crystal Stilts - and you can tell. She's struck out on her own, now, but "Interstellar" is a sparkling, distorted sound that floats over the void suspended by a kick drum.
100. Spiritualized / "Hey Jane" A repetitive, unceasing, meat and potatoes rock song that merrily keeps itself running through twists, turns, and reversals.
Adele / "Skyfall" For a second I wasn't going to put "Skyfall" on here, mostly because I have a history of being blindly tolerant of all the faults of your average 007 theme song. But I love James Bond theme songs. I love the credit sequences. This is no exception.
62. Tame Impala / "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" Can you tell that this part of the list is entering into a little bit of an indie rock groove? It's for the sake of the playlist, you know, I don't want to be jumping all over the damn map. The thing in indie rock? 60's throwback. Imagine, if you will, the landscape from Yellow Submarine.
63. Grizzly Bear / "Speak in Rounds" Grizzly Bear is a band I often take for granted. This sounds bad, I know, but I often forget that when I'm listening to them I like them and tend to think things like, oh yeah, Grizzly Bear is really quiet and boring and stuff. While they're not exactly loud, the sound is a rich one...and one I need to remember to actively appreciate more.
64. Lianne La Havas / "Au Cinema" Lianne La Havas is here to inherit the quirky, coffee shop singer/songwriter type space. I don't mean that negatively, though the connotations may open up thoughts of impulse buy CDs at a Starbucks counter. Lianne could sell a lot of those, I'd imagine, but I like "Au Cinema" because, seriously, did I mention I have a film blog?
65. Cloud Nothings / "Stay Useless" This is the part where I throw down two tracks and then a couple of my friends are all like "WAIT. YOU LISTEN TO THINGS THAT DON"T HAVE ROBOTIC ELEMENTS?" and I am like...exasperated by their overstatement. I enjoy "Stay Useless" though, because despite what they say I've always liked Pavement. Similarities.
66. Japandroids / "The House That Heaven Built" I'm not thoroughly on board with Celebration Rock as the joyous wondrous thing so many people (at least on NPR) constantly want to tout it as being, but I get the strange nostalgia it seems to dredge up for those folks, and this song, I think, is something kind of special.
67. King Tuff / "Bad Thing" One of them dancey time rock songs. If so inclined, one could manage the twist and the pogo on this.
68. The Men / "Open Your Heart" I KNOW, RIGHT? There are so many guitar songs in a row! It's nuts. Also, I KNOW, RIGHT? I totally hear the Buzzcocks there too. Hits all the right notes.
69. Savages / "Husbands" Right now Savages has only released a couple short songs for download and that's not enough because I need to see some more. The evidence suggests the post-punk girl group is working to channel all the right influences, Siouxsie, Poly Styrene, and a seriously seriously weird female Ian Curtis/Joy Division vibe. This is the real shit.
70. Actress / "Shadow From Tartarus" R.I.P. is an album unhinged, and when a real beat surfaces, it's somehow all-encompassing. I like to picture giant drunk robots dancing about to this.
71. Grimes / "Genesis" I just realized that I think the aesthetic of this video was basically the theme of my NYE party. Also, I've sort of run out of things to say about what Grimes is doing and why she keeps making it onto this list. I love it. It's witchcraft.
72. Iron Galaxy / "Attention Seeker" House music. The real house, you know, not like that Tiesto shit. Seriously, though, I know nothing about Iron Galaxy apart from that I enjoy this track a lot.
73. Ke$ha / "Die Young" Oh, that's right. I went there. Ke$ha jumped off the guilty list and onto the main stage. You know why? Because this is a hedonistic pop song that effectively blends the bad with the good, the cheesy raps with the undeniable hook, the live in the moment anthem with fatalistic pop wreckage. It doesn't matter if she uses 'beat' twice in one sentence, you only noticed because you sang it to yourself over and over and over again.
74. Chairlift / "Amanaemonesia" Clever lyrics disguised in slick, oddly New Wave trappings. The chorus is built for singing, and the turns are surprising.
75. Marina and The Diamonds / "Primadonna" Electra Heart is like a 'hipster' Teenage Dream; an album that's all affectation, candy hearts, lip gloss, and sour gummies wrapped in a cotton candy cloud.
76. Major Lazer / "Get Free (feat. Amber Coffman)" Amber Coffman is from Dirty Projectors, which means they're infiltrating in sneaky, sneaky ways. Major Lazer is partially a cartoon band, a collaborative project headed up by Diplo that brings in vocalists and tends to produce big, mixed up, electrified world sounds. "Get Free" is a slowed down dance hall track that sways and bounces like a lazy carousel.
77. Rye Rye / "Boom Boom" Rye Rye was on the scene for a hot minute a few years back and then found her career suddenly sidelined. 2012 saw the release of her first full album, and "Boom Boom" is a killer, wildly exuberant piece of pop hop that manages to rework a Venga Boys sample in a way that makes you pick up infinite extra lives.
78. Frank Ocean / "Super Rich Kids" A loping, piano backed track that makes you feel like a million bucks even if you aren't near the Gossip Girl levels of living Ocean describes in his lyrics.
79. Jessie Ware / "110%" I don't know how she does it, but Jessie Ware takes a slow jam that should belong to your mother and makes it something light, breezy, and undeniably fresh.
80. Sharon Van Etten / "Give Out" The most beautiful social anxiety has ever sounded. Good lord, this song makes it work in a big way.
Friday, January 4, 2013
...and we set forth into the New Year. The furious 100 continues. In this edition you'll find a sampling of more specifically pop, hip hop, and R&B bent jams. As mentioned, it was a good year for all of the above, and we've seen a concentrated return of sampled sounds from 90's genres blended to create new sounds by enigmatic, interesting artists off mixtapes, on underground releases, and in the mainstream top 40. Collect them all!
41. Santigold / "Disparate Youth" Santi returns with a sound that defies easy categorization, but which here sounds like the long lost twin of the AWOL Res (what happened to her?).
42. AlunaGeorge / "Your Drums, Your Love" Sugar rush pop vocals over draped over warped voices and skittish beats, a lovely, adult pop song.
43. Schoolboy Q / "Hands on the Wheel" Distant, looped echo chamber instrumentals weave a hazy backdrop for the capable rhymes of the drugged out Schoolboy Q.
44. Katy B x Geeneus x Jessie Ware / "Aaliyah" Sneaking in right at the close of the calendar, UK popster Katy B drops "Aaliyah" as part of a free EP and the world dances into the sunset.
45. How to Dress Well / "& It Was U" Patterns upon patterns, sadness upon deceptively cheery beats.
46. Nicki Minaj ft. 2 Chainz / "Beez in the Trap" A ice cold, positively frigid single beat leading into an equally chilly diss track dripping with sneering apathy.
47. John Talabot ft. Pional / "Destiny" The best kind of dance track is one with a slow build that opens at exactly the right moment. Producer John Talabot weaves a soft, glittering tapestry of pure dance bliss.
48. Andy Stott / "Luxury Problems" The title track of Stott's album and another stable slow-build with rich deep bass and a creeping, unbearably cool menace.
49. Azealia Banks / "Fierce" Azealia Banks exploded this year, and if you've yet to hear of her, you have some serious catching up to do. While the free tracks and mixtapes seemed to drop constantly, my favorite track may be this quiet, Paris is Burning based dark vibe that -in a way- serves as an understated showcase of the things Banks does best: fashion beats and monotone rhyme.
50. Angel Haze / "New York" Haze and Banks are feuding as of today, I believe, but each earns equal standing on this list. Haze takes no prisoners, spits raps far fiercer than those of Banks, and announces her presence with a middle finger raised.
51. Scissor Sisters / "Let's Have a Kiki" I'm sorry, but lists that are ignoring "Let's Have a Kiki" need to take a break and just have fun for a little bit. The song may not be great, but it's an instant, dance floor classic with delightfully campy lyrics and a simple, easy to imitate dance far more fabulous than "Gangnam Style" on any day ending with a y.
52. Saint Etienne / "Tonight" Saint Etienne are pop veterans with a sound that hasn't shifted too much in the decades since their inception. In a way they've been making -for ages- exactly the kind of pop that's recently come into vogue. It only makes sense that they'd return now...
53. Rihanna / "Diamonds" If you can shake this song from your head, you're a far better person than I. It's a damply sappy track that weakly attempts to sweep up the cosmos into a sad little love song, and I know this. But...it's got something that may make it last long after the Top 40 stations get over it.
54. Kendrick Lamar / "Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe" Mellowed out, west coast hip hop that flows free and makes you wish for a convertible and a sunny day in the dead of winter.
55. Usher / "Climax" A restrained, evenly tempered R&B track that, perhaps ironically, never reaches an actual climax. As surprising as it is melodic.
56. Grimes / "Be a Body" I latched on to this Grimes track above all others for reasons I can't quite explain. The ethereal becomes hypnotic, the beat punches and kicks and cycles and seems to demand that you immediately invent some kind of lava lamp choreography for it. You should.
57. Captain Murphy (Flying Lotus) ft. Earl Sweatshirt / "Between Friends" We now know that Captain Murphy is just a rapping Flying Lotus, which makes the way he vocally presents himself on his Murphy tracks super odd. The instrumentals, though, are the right kind of acid jazzy, tripped out sound we've come to expect from the man behind all the action.
58. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis / "Thrift Shop" A hook-filled, singable, likable, homegrown little ditty about thrift shopping and bargain hunting that flies in the face of the overproduced business side of slick production values and conspicuous consumption.
59. Carly Rae Jepsen / "Call Me Maybe" At first, I really hated this song. I came around to it after innumerable plays by every single one of my friends in every possible situation. Still, I don't love this song, and at this point the sugary quality of the catchphrase has worn its welcome. I almost didn't put the song on here at all, and then I thought...you know, in a few years I'm going to have mad nostalgia whenever I hear this. Done.
60. Odd Future / "Oldie" Ten minutes of the whole Odd Future crew introducing themselves, taking turns doing what they each do, and quietly one-upping one another and lovingly pushing themselves in ways that are almost charming and which make a non-believer understand the potential in each member of the group.
Monday, December 31, 2012
On to Part two of our five part series. If you're following along with this little program I'd urge you not to get too used to the daily posts, as I have a feeling there will be a small break for New Year's recovery and general malaise in the coming days. For now, though, we proceed undeterred on a long trek back through the heaps and heaps of interesting sounds that surfaced in 2012.
21. El-P / "The Full Retard" "The Full Retard" possesses a booming, driving dance rhythm that occasionally veers off into sleepy, Vangelis-style instrumentals beneath El-P's fierce verses. As the man says, you should pump this shit.
22. Killer Mike / "Big Beast" Probably the best thing to follow "The Full Retard" with, El-P provides the ferocious beat to collaborator Killer Mike's warning to anyone who tries to step up to his level.
23. White+ / "Red+" White+ is an experimental Chinese punk band I happened to stumble upon on one music blog or another (Said the Gramophone, perhaps?), and "Red+" stuck although I couldn't tell you a damn thing about it apart from noting that I really like its bright, energetic garage sound.
24. Plan B / "Ill Manors" Plan B is angry at the government, and "Ill Manors" is a protest song worth hearing.
25. Father John Misty / "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" Fleet Foxes' drummer Josh Tillman began releasing solo work as Father John Misty this year, and it's like he suddenly allowed himself to actually make noise on occasion. WHO KNEW?
26. Chairlift / "Ghost Tonight" I was shocked by how much I wound up liking Chairlift's sophomore album. The twosome has expanded beyond the twee realm of "Bruises" and moved towards a deeper, wandering, worldly indie sound.
27. Andy Stott / "Numb" A beautiful, dance-stasis cloud capable of engulfing a room.
28. Frank Ocean / "Thinkin Bout You" Frank Ocean track number two! His performance on Saturday Night Live cracked the "best moments" list for a slew of television critics, and the song opens the possibility of Ocean as an R&B star who can successfully blend hip hop with Prince's more eccentric moments.
29. Beach House / "Lazuli" Before "Lazuli" opens up to take a giant breath of fresh air, it traps you in with a toy-like synth tone that's so cute that it becomes skin crawlingly infuriating. Sometimes, I really hate it. Then I get 30 seconds in and forget that was ever a problem.
30. Wild Nothing / "Paradise" A pretty pretty bit of quiet, atmospheric pop.
31. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti / "Only In My Dreams" The idiosyncratic Ariel Pink may not have much of an interest in picking up a mainstream audience, but there are still a few tracks on Mature Themes that maintain the pleasant "wall of sound" quality of the wonderful "Round and Round." This is a lovely 60's hallucination, relish it.
32. Ellie Goulding / "Only You" I'd sort of ignored Ellie Goulding's sophomore album Halcyon until a friend clued informed me that she couldn't stop listening to "Only You." Curious, I checked it out, and immediately fell into the same trap. It's a great, dark fairy tale of a pop song that swells until it soars.
33. Sky Ferreira / "Everything is Embarrassing" Pop singer Sky Ferreira has been 'on the rise' for a long time now, hunting for a big break outside of the occasional TV commercial. "Everything is Embarrassing" marks a shift and emotional sophistication that suggests Ferreira may finally hit it big in 2013.
34. Chromatics / "Kill for Love" The second appearance of Chromatics on this list, and another beautiful, lush, electronic take away.
35. Sunny Levine / "No Other Plans" Sunny Levine is more of a producer than anything, or so says the literature, and this track appears to be some weird anomaly that exists only in Celeste and Jesse Forever. Levine has a meandering, warm, radio-friendly vibe that suggests a more indie friendly Jack Johnson or Jason Mraz (both of whom I absolutely do not care for), but sometimes you need something just this nice.
36. Alt-J / "Tessellate" Mathematical love. Tessellate is an interesting new colloquialism for doin' it, and apart from that, you just need to listen.
37. Lana Del Rey / "Burning Desire" I know the Del Rey backlash happened almost as soon as she hit the mainstream, but I'd be a filthy, filthy liar if I didn't own up to listening to the Born to Die album constantly. "Burning Desire" is a lush track for dwelling on deserted beaches, and though it has no substance, I went through a period of listening to it over and over and over...
38. Crystal Castles / "Plague" Alice Glass screams and strains over shifting, pulsing, moody instrumentals that sound as diseased and infectious as the title suggests.
39. Death Grips / "I've Seen Footage" Somewhere between the Beastie Boys and an angry Saul Williams, Death Grips is all piss, vinegar, and pure noise. "I've Seen Footage" is a slightly less discordant song ideal for jumping around, or cranking to the maximum volume.
40. Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra / "Do It With a Rockstar" After a long period of just not understanding Amanda Palmer fans, I heard this song and suddenly felt as though maybe I got it. Turns out it was just a song or two, but the rock chick swagger on this track makes it the perfect song for singing out loud when no one's listening. The video is absolutely atrocious, of course, but we'll pretend that didn't happen.